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Worlds of Ink and Shadow Paperback – March 6, 2018
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have an absurd, almost neurotic obsession with the Brontës, more specifically, Anne. When I saw the Brontë tagline, I had to have it. I nearly convulsed with excitement. Who am I kidding? I was positively giddy. Immediately, from the very first sentence, I was held captive by this stunning glimpse into the Brontë childhood and their marvelous, fanciful stories. Imaginary worlds, magic, folklore, and history all combine for a lovely re-imagining of the famous Brontë siblings.
That dark, almost Gothic Victorian feeling is in abundance. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a Brontë or Austen novel. The rich, dreary scenery and melancholy is quite a diversion.
Verdopolis and Gondal are mesmerizing, exhilarating worlds full of intrigue, scandal, and villains. Just the sort of seedy, criminal underworlds and upper-class mischief that sweeps you up into the story. Rogue is a suave rascal, full of gruff comments and spur of the moment adventures. Think Captain Hook.
The underlying folklore aspect and magic is a compelling twist that will keep you guessing.
Each POV is unique. You see the Wuthering Heights in Emily’s devilish attraction to danger and the rush she gets at the corruption. Matters of the heart and soul are her forte. She’s a vivacious and excitable young girl full of wonder and imagination. Charlotte is a bit stuck up and proud. She knows she has skill and feels jilted that her brother gets all the attention. At the same time, she’s a major control freak. All of these quirks you’ll find parallel the true Charlotte and more. Anne is perceptive, realistic, and reigns in the insanity <3. Branwell was a surprise. Many people dismiss his talents and forget about him. I was rapt at Branwell’s gritty and adventurous storylines. All in all, Lena Coakley did a stellar job channeling all the Brontë spirit and personality. The complex and layer relationships between siblings were full of subtle understanding and love.
Because the story is told from four different POVs it moves a little slowly; that, on top of the fact that they live on a moor without much to do besides menial tasks or escaping into their fantasy worlds.
A lot of the story is bickering and jealousy between the siblings (mainly Branwell and Charlotte). Topics that could have been explored, like
Branwell’s overwhelming sense of responsibility and pressure or Charlotte’s heartbreak that she’d never be able to succeed in a male profession were brief and quickly jumped over for the next subject.
There’s a big disconnect between the worlds the Brontës create and reality, even through they function within and around one another. Each Brontë has an affinity towards an imaginary character that sort of pops up all of a sudden and becomes important. It was difficult to make a solid emotional connection to most of the Brontës because the story flipped back and forth without delving into their passions beyond the imaginary world and subtle favoritism among siblings.
WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW by acclaimed author Lena Coakley (author of WITCHLANDERS) explores the real lives of theBrontë siblings --- Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell. History knows Charlotte as the author of JANE EYRE and Emily as the author of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but we do not know much about the siblings themselves and their untimely deaths. In WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW, Coakley explores the possibility that the siblings could enter the worlds they created --- and were driven mad by it.
In the novel, the Brontësiblings are living out a meager existence at their parsonage in Yorkshire, England. They are normal --- save for their fantastic ability to cross over the fictional worlds they have created. Charlotte and Branwell do most of the writing, separately, but their characters exist in the same worlds: Verdopolis and Gondal. Charlotte has created the dashing Duke of Zamorna and Branwell the mysterious Alexander Rogue. Zamorna and Rogue are arch-enemies, and Charlotte and Branwell enjoy pitting the two characters up against each other. It is all fun and games...until they realize a character has appeared that neither of them has created.
Suddenly, the worlds they thought they had such a tight grip on begin to spiral out of their control. Their characters that they spent so much time perfecting no longer bend to their will. Plus, their real lives begin to be plagued by their late sisters Maria and Elizabeth, and the siblings begin to believe they are going insane.
But as they try to leave their corrupted world behind, the characters and city will not let them leave, and the price they paid for passage into their once fictional world becomes far, far too high.
WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW is unlike any book I have ever read. How many books can you think of that could be filed under historical fiction, biographical fiction, European fiction, Young Adult fiction, paranormal fiction, fantasy, horror, romance...the list goes on and on? Perhaps Ransom Riggs’s MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN comes close, but it cannot be filed under biographical fiction. Unfortunately, the originality of this novel --- and the wonderful writing --- are probably the only aspects I liked.
This novel started out strong and clinched my attention within the first few chapters. But by the end, some characters that I enjoyed reading about were completely omitted from the novel. I wish this book had 100 more pages because the plot and characters could have been fleshed out so much more. There was not a lot of consistency with the plot and characters, either. All in all, what started out as a clean, tight and interesting story quickly became a story with a messy plot, many mood and tone changes, and a rushed and confusing ending.
Still, I cannot ignore the obvious extensive research about the siblings and the fictional worlds they created. It is clear that Coakley is very passionate about the Brontës and their stories and I commend her for that. In the case of WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW, I can ignore the problems with the execution of the story in favor of passion for what is being written and the ingenuity. Overall, WORLDS OF INK AND SHADOW is a largely enjoyable read about reality and finding your place in the --- real --- world.
Highly recommended for fans of Libba Bray --- especially her Diviners series --- and, obviously, fans of Ransom Riggs’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series.
Reviewed by Bryn D.
The story as I stated carries an original concept mixed with history ...... but there in lies the problem which might not make sense to someone not privy to the history of the Brontes. So if you are interested in jumping into the story I suggest you all research their lives before you begin. The story would largely make much more sense then and you won't be so lost as you might have been otherwise.
Its in essence much more about the lush and opulent Verdoplis and the cut-throat land of Gondal than the siblings' life themselves. I would have loved it more if it was a bit about both. The story reads well and its not bad at all but that's just it, nothing eventful happens and the way they escape the call of their fictional world's didn't really gather much notion ...... Do I recommend the book? I'd say try but don't expect much. You just might like it better.
Most recent customer reviews
So first off I want to make it clear that I know absolutely nothing about the Brontë siblings (I'm probably the only...Read more